Dave Hoskin studied Arts at Melbourne University and graduated to a job delivering pizzas. He still can’t stand Pizza Hut to this day. He then nagged his way into the Victorian College of the Arts School of Film and Television on his third attempt, eventually winning the Best Director Prize in his final year. He insists there was no bribery involved in this at all. He’s been writing non-fiction for the likes of Metro, The Big Issue, Time Out, the Australian Book Review and Eureka Street, and his fiction has appeared in Midnight Echo, Doctor Who: Short Trips–Transmissions, Bernice Summerfield—Something Changed and Faction Paradox: A Romance in Twelve Parts. His short films have appeared in festivals all over the world. He does not have a blog. Nor does he have a cat. This makes him a very strange member of the internet indeed.
1) You’ve written scripts and short stories. While I know the finished product looks different, does it actually require a different skill set to write both competently?
I think so. I deliberately approach them differently, mostly because I think it’s a good idea to emphasise the strengths of the different media. When I’m writing short stories I’m quite conscious of the fact that they’re usually about what’s going inside the characters’ heads. You can do interior monologue for ages in prose, and as long as you’re not a terrible writer, the reader won’t get bored with it. You still need a decent story, imagery and all the rest of it, but the spotlight is on how the characters are reacting inside their head. I know a lot of my favourite authors–Stephen King springs to mind–are brilliant at sustaining a character’s train of thought for chapters at a time, and I suspect that’s one of the reasons his novels don’t often translate to screen that well: the story is really occurring inside the characters’ heads.
Conversely, when I’m doing a script I’m aware that I can be very specific about things like images, sounds and expressions. Sometimes it’s good to be ambiguous–monsters are often better in novels because the vagueness of the description allows them to be better in your imagination for example–but you can be far more succinct and more emotionally direct with an audience if you can simply present them with something concrete. The Zapruder footage of the Kennedy assassination is a great example of that. There’s a real visceral quality to that image, and a remember seeing it in the film JFK and thinking that Kennedy’s death seemed to go on forever at the time when it was really only a couple of seconds. When you combine powerful stuff like that with music, sound, a great actor and a decent director you’ve got a bunch of tools that a novel doesn’t have in quite the same way. The downside is that you have to be proficient in more than just the usual writer’s tools they teach you in secondary school. Ideally, you’ll be thinking about what the camera’s doing, what the sound’s like, what the actors can deliver with their faces and their voice (but not their thoughts, barring voiceover), and all the other things that can go into making a decent movie. It sounds obvious, but it’s a hard skill to be really proficient at.
2) Over a number of years you’ve reviewed films both in print and on radio. You’re also not willing to sugar coat something if you think it’s rubbish. That said, as a creator yourself, are there times when you feel your reviews have over-stepped the mark?
There was one film–Gabriel–where my review was so scathing that my editors elected not to publish it. Possibly because I described it as the worst film I’ve ever seen, and wasn’t exaggerating (it’s since been superseded by the second Transformers movie–what a piece of dogshit, eh?). I did briefly wonder if I’d overstepped the mark, but I recently re-read that review and was happy to stand by it. It wasn’t internet-comment-form ranting, it was a pretty considered piece, and that’s the difference I think. Wankers rant to get attention, overstating their case in order to appear funny or “outrageous” or whatever. I get bored with that pretty quickly, usually because I want some steak with my sizzle. You’ve got to bring some intelligence to the table, some discrimination in the way you target supposed flaws in various works of art, because otherwise you’re just going to be as interesting as phoning up a fax machine
That said, I’m not above insulting someone’s abilities, but I usually stop short of personal insults or really serious accusations unless they’re particularly egregious (I was quite comfortable labelling Andrew Bolt and his TV show The Bolt Report as racist, for example). You can review somebody’s work as brutally as you like, I think, but reviewing the person based on *your impression* of their work is something that should be done pretty carefully (not least for legal reasons).
Or in short, be funny, be blunt, be insightful… but don’t be a wanker.
3) I hear you’ve sold a few short pieces recently (possibly because you told me), where can we buy them and what can we expect?
The first one is called “Tonton Macoute” and it’s in a collection called “Faction Paradox: A Romance in Twelve Parts” from Obverse Books. You can expect a story about auto-cannibalism, time travel, and creatures that use the eye of Cyclone Tracy as a prison to hold a very dangerous criminal indeed. You can order a copy here:
The second story is called “Bruises” and it’s appearing in a collection called “Tales of the City” also from Obverse (same link as above). It’s set in a version of heaven in which nobody can be hurt and nobody can die… and then a police officer sees a girl with a bruise. A bruise that ought to be impossible.
The final story is called “Collisions” and it’s appearing in a collection called “World’s Collider”. The basic idea of the collection is that there’s an explosion at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland and this creates a Rift in the space-time continuum. Every story sees something different come through the Rift, and there’s an ongoing narrative that ties the (end of the) world together. My story takes the villain of the collection and puts him through the mental wringer. My editor asked me to ensure that the character ended up in a particular place by the end of the story, and I figured out a way to do that while essentially doing a riff on Hitchcock’s Rope. But inside somebody’s head. Mostly. Except for the violent bits.
There’s nowhere to order it as yet, but keep an eye on the Facebook page and details should be up shortly:
4) What Australian works have you loved recently?
In prose form… I did like The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas, albeit with the odd reservation. Nobody’s Children by Kate Orman, Jon Blum (and token Brit Philip Purser-Hallard). Shaun Tan’s Tales From Outer Suburbia. Peter Temple’s The Broken Shore. I also read loads of non-fiction as well, but I presume it’s just fiction you’re after.
At the movies, I thought Wish You Were Here was great. Ditto Snowtown. For something completely different, Red Dog was also very good at what it was attempting to do. Swerve was a top little film that nobody noticed. Ditto The Square. Sigh.
5) Two years on from Aussiecon 4, what do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian Spec Fic scene?
I don’t know that I’m really qualified to comment. I don’t really pay much attention to “the scene”, mostly out of a Groucho Marx-ish desire to avoid scenes in general, particularly the ones that would have me. I just write what I write and hope that people will like it.